772.00/6–350: Telegram

The Ambassador in France ( Bruce ) to the Secretary of State

secret

2664. Tunisian problem is regarded by Foreign Office with gravity and certain apprehension.1 LaTour duPin2 stated that growing uneasiness among not only Moslems but also French Colonists and functionaries [Page 1778] in Tunisia requires firm handling on part of administration and reassurances to all sectors population.

When questioned whether reform project of Mons would be implemented he said he could tell us frankly that there was actually no such plan as yet on paper. During recent discussions here Mons had merely put forth certain ideas and suggestions for reform but nothing definite had been formulated. He admitted that government, faced with interpellation by Socialists probably on June 6 and study of Tunisian problem by Radical and PRL Congresses coming week, would have to be prepared with some definite line of action. He added that no reforms could be undertaken without prior consultation with Bey and his Ministers.

Foreign Office is actively studying question changing Bey’s Prime Minister apparently in effort have more Francophile Tunisian in this important post. Perillier,3 according to LaTour duPin, would not initiate reforms immediately on arrival nor before Ramadan (June 15) but would give reassurances at safe time asserting authority of French administration. While Foreign Office recognizes need reforms, it is obviously not going to be railroaded into precipitous action whereby French would yield control. From conversation it seemed apparent that reforms at least initially would be confined to municipalities and a general shift of civil controllers and caids is evidently under consideration.

LaTour duPin claimed that Mons was glad of change after three years and his transfer would have been effected earlier had there been suitable position available for him. Secretary General and Chef du Cabinet as already reported by Consulate General Tunis are also anxious for transfer.

LaTour duPin believed that Socialists would not upset apple cart over Tunisian question and that other parties would support program less drastic than that proposed by Socialists. (Embtel 2632, June 1.)4 Our impression is that Foreign Office caught unawares by Socialist resolutions and still undecided on what measures among those put forward by Mons should be adopted now in seeking formula which would placate French in Tunisia at same time giving satisfaction to Tunisians. In view of publicity given so called Mons reforms it is likely that government will be obliged to meet challenge and Perillier’s mission will be to instigate certain changes. However, no decisions on basic reforms have yet been made.

Repeated info Tunis 37, London unnumbered, Algiers, Tangier, Rabat, Casablanca unnumbered.

Bruce
  1. In his telegram 71, May 12, from Tunis, not printed, Consul General Packer reported having been informed in great confidence by Pierre Chatenet, Chief of Cabinet of the Resident General, that Foreign Minister Schuman planned to submit Tunisian reform measures to the French Cabinet during May. Chatenet informed Packer that the primary French interest in Tunisia was:

    “prevent Tunisia, strategically so important, going Communist. Present low standard living and low cultural level offered opportunity fruitful Communist labor and best way combat Communism improve both. No longer safe assume Islam was wall which Communism could not capture.” (772.00/5–1250)

  2. Geoffroy de la Tour du Pin, Chief of Protectorates Affairs in the French Foreign Ministry.
  3. It was announced on June 1 that Jean Mons would be succeeded by Louis Perillier as French Resident General in Tunisia. Mons became a Permanent Secretary in the French Ministry of National Defense.
  4. Not printed.